There was an interesting article in the The Guardian this weekend about being green in the office; the writer said they were green at home, recycling this, saving that, but that doing the same thing was much more difficult in the office.
According to the article, a survey for Green Office Week (being promoted by office supplies company Avery) said that one in three workers admits that laziness stops them being green at the office; the article also raised the issue of pro-recycling people being concerned that they’d be perceived as ‘eco nags’ if they spoke to colleagues about it.
From my experience, I don’t think the issue is so much about being lazy as it is about being thoughtless.
Let me explain. Some years ago, I was working in a big company. We didn’t have a staff kitchen, so we got our teas and coffees from vending machines. (I remember the cups were brown; very 70s.) The hot drinks the machine dispensed were very hot. So much so, that when I got my coffee I had to hold it by the rim of the cup – a bit like one of those ‘claw’ games at the seaside – or I couldn’t carry it.
Other people used to use two cups; one to hold the coffee, the other to insulate against the heat. Seems fair enough? Well, yes. Except they’d throw away both cups when they’d finished drinking. When they got another coffee, they’d start again.
There I was, being conscientious and using one cup and these twits were using two to protect their delicate little fingers. Bless. (I also re-used my cups. I think I might have brought a mug in, too.)
It’s very easy to tell a thoughtless person; when they’ve got the choice of using a glass or a mug, they’ll choose a plastic cup.
You can spot them in the loo too, because, when they wash their hands (or rather if), they’ll grab five or six paper towels and they dry their hands with all the vigour of someone pressing flowers. A gentle pat and the towels, almost all of which are bone dry, are tossed into the bin.
I’m not all that virtuous, but I have one handy green routine. When I need a screen break, I get up, sort out the papers on my desk, and take all the unwanted stuff to the recycling bin. It makes a little change, clears space and recycles in one go.
Another thing I try to do is only to print documents that I know are going to be read at a meeting. So many of us print multiple copies to distribute at a meeting and at the end people leave them untouched. Perhaps the solution is to ask participants to only print essential papers and bring them along to the meeting themselves.
Of course these are just small ideas, one for the individual rather than the business. But being green- being thoughtful – has to start somewhere.